You're Joshin' if you think he's great


You're Joshin' if you think he's great

By Michael Felger

Three nuggets to chew on as we come out of the dog days of summer.

Are you beginning to get the picture on Josh Beckett yet? Hes pretty good. But hes not great -- and those who think otherwise are simply ignoring the facts.

Beckett is completing his fifth year with the Red Sox this season and has made 134 starts in the American League. That's a good sample size, more than enough to accurately pass judgment. And over that time his ERA is 4.22. That's it. 4.22. That's what he is.

Obviously, Beckett has had some stellar postseasons (7-3, 3.07 lifetime). I'd take him in October -- no question about it. But getting there has become a problem. His failure in New York on Sunday versus Dustin Moseley wasn't all that hard to predict. Beckett's last five starts against the Yankees have produced an 0-3 record with a 10.54 ERA and 32 earned runs over the last 27 13 innings. Brutal.

So that's the deal with Beckett right now. Hes a guy who will bully the dregs like Cleveland and Seattle, but will get lit up by the iron. Sunday should have been a clear advantage for the Sox, and if Beckett had done his job the Sox would have walked away from the weekend with three out of four wins against the division leaders, setting themselves up for a very interesting final seven weeks.

But he wasn't up to it.

The chatter surrounding possible movement on Tom Brady's contract is increasing heading into Thursdays exhibition opener against New Orleans, which makes perfect sense. The Saints game is a meaningful threshold.

Without a new contract, Brady is assuming a huge amount of risk by playing football this month. His next contract will probably include around 50 million in guarantees, and since he's set to make just 6.5 million this year, that means Brady's exposure is north of 40 million. This is where his situation is dramatically different from that of Peyton Manning, who is making 16 million this season and has earned around 30 million more than Brady since the two signed extensions in 2004-05. There's just more at stake for Brady.

Which is why it would behoove the Patriots to mitigate that risk for Brady prior to Thursday's game. If a long-term extension is too complicated in the current labor environment, then a one-year raise should be in order, something to tie Brady over until the CBA comes into focus.

It's one thing for Brady to be participating in training camp practices wearing the red (non-contact) jersey. It's another for him to be lining up against the defending champion Saints, who will be hitting him for real. Taking care of him before that point is just the right thing to do.

Maybe that's what he and Bob Kraft were discussing on the golf course the other day.

So it turns out that the same year a sketchy Canadian doctor by the name of Anthony Galea is charged with trafficking in performance-enhancing drugs, two of his highest-profile clients Alex Rodriquez and Tiger Woods suffer the worst seasons of their careers. Hmmm. Just a coincidence, right?

Woods certainly has other factors at play in his slump, but he still deserves the speculation. No one would be surprised if it turned out PEDs were a big part of his story.

Then theres the case of the NFLs reigning defensive rookie of the year, Houston's Brian Cushing, who is claiming his positive test last year was the result of over-training. It turns out, according to Cushing, that he suffers from a rare syndrome called "over-trained athlete syndrome," which can trigger hormonal spikes after breaks in training. And thats why he tested positive for a female fertility drug.

Right. Thats it.

E-mail Felger HERE and read his mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set


Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

MONTREAL – The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.

“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”

Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.

But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.

All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem…Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.

“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”

Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week. 


Celtics-Magic Preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch


Celtics-Magic Preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

BOSTON – When Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about what he saw in the team’s newest (10-day) addition Jarell Eddie, his response was, “shooting … shooting.”

Indeed, shot-making has been the one area of play that has been problematic for the Celtics most of this season.

Boston comes into today’s game against Orlando (13-32) shooting just 44.8 percent from the field which ranks 25th in the NBA.

In the month of January, Boston has been even worse, connecting on just 41.8 percent of their shots which ranks 29th in the league this month.

While the addition of Eddie had more to do with the recent flu bug that has made the rounds throughout the Celtics lineup and the uncertainty a couple days ago surrounding Kyrie Irving’s sore left shoulder (it has improved and he’s expected to play today), adding Eddie speaks to a greater problem – guys making shots – that has to be addressed in some capacity sooner or later.

Boston always has the option to pursue a trade. They also have an $8.4 million disabled player exception they can use on free agent players, with the most likely pool of talent that they will choose from consisting of players who would have been bought out by their current teams.

Or there’s raiding the G-League for talent, which is what they did in signing Eddie to a 10-day contract.

Regardless, there’s a growing sense that this team has to add more scoring punch to the mix or at a minimum, improve the overall offensive execution of the roster as it stands now.

“We have to do our stuff better,” Stevens said. “The start of the season it was predictable, losing Gordon (Hayward who suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in the season-opener) and having to adjust. The middle portion of games we were pretty darn good. And then I thought we were reasonable in London, reasonable against New Orleans. But the other three of the last five games, we weren’t very good.”

Boston’s offense should get a boost from Irving’s return to the lineup after missing Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia with a sore left shoulder.

And while it was just one game, Irving understands the challenge that lies ahead in getting Boston’s offense to play better and more consistently.

“We have very unique talents on this team,” Irving said. “When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”

Marcus Morris has been one of the players who has been in and out of the Celtics lineup because of a sore left knee.

However, the schedule has eased up to where he’ll be able to play more games, for longer stretches.

He comes into today’s game having scored in double figures each of the last three games.

“I’m just trying to get healthy. I know what I can do,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “My confidence is always going to stay high, no matter if I miss or make shots.”

In the last three games, he has averaged 15.0 points while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

While Morris’ play of late is promising, it doesn’t diminish the concern Boston should have for an offense that for the most part, has been sputtering this season.